A divorce trial can be the result of a contested divorce or failed mediation or settlement talks. A trial means that a judge will be reviewing the evidence presented and will make the ultimate decision regarding the most important aspects of a couple’s separation, including child custody, child support, alimony payments, and the division of all assets and property.
Preparing for a trial can seem daunting and overwhelming. There can be a lot involved in the process and a lot riding on the outcome of the case. Securing a skilled and experienced attorney is the best way to help relieve some of your burdens and ensure that there is someone completely invested in protecting your rights and securing a positive outcome for your situation.
If you are contemplating a divorce and need someone to help guide you through the process of going to trial, contact the experienced North Carolina divorce attorneys with Marshall & Taylor PLLC. We can answer your questions and help prepare you for what’s to come in a compassionate and supportive way. Call us at (919) 833-1040 to schedule a case evaluation today.
Going to Trial- An Outline
A trail doesn’t progress like it does in the movies or on television. It is not always filled with fiery and dramatic performances. A trial is a technical and precise process. In many situations, the progression of a divorce trial is as follows:
Scheduling a Date
Getting to trial is half the battle. If a divorce case is heading for the courtroom, it can take time to schedule a trial date. The length of time required to schedule a court date depends on the region where the trial is to be held. This may take weeks, or even months, in some jurisdictions. While the process may seem long, the key is to be patient and trust your attorney to use the time to prepare the strongest case possible.
Judge and Jury
The overwhelming majority of divorce cases in North Carolina will be heard and determined by a judge. The use of juries in North Carolina is very rare. In fact, only two states, Georgia and Texas, allow juries to be used to hear and resolve key aspects of a divorce proceeding. North Carolina does not allow the use of juries to determine major issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, or the equitable division of property.
In some situations, a jury trial may be allowed if there is an allegation of marital misconduct. In this situation, a jury would be allowed to hear all the evidence and determine if a spouse is at-fault for some form of marital misconduct, which would result in the allocation of alimony to the other spouse. However, a jury is only allowed to determine fault they are not allowed to determine the amount of alimony to be paid or the length of time that payments must be made.
The opening statements give each party the opportunity to address the court. It is an attorney’s chance to set the tone of the trial and outline their client’s position. Think of it as an introduction, a time to let the court know your general story and how you propose to prove the relevant elements of that story. Working closely with an experienced attorney you trust is the best way to make a powerful statement about your case during this portion of the trial.
In some situations, it may be necessary to call witnesses to trial in order to present evidence and establish the character of each party. During this testimony, the attorneys representing each side will have a chance to question the witness. This is known as examination and cross-examination. The purpose of examination is to corroborate the story that was presented in the opening statement, the accounts of the witnesses, and their knowledge of the evidence. The purpose of cross-examination is for the other side to attempt to refute or poke holes in the testimony of the witness, calling into question the accuracy or validity of the story and evidence.
Once each side is finished presenting their case and calling witnesses, it is time for the closing statements to be made. This is the time where each attorney provides the court with a summary of all the evidence and testimony that has been presented. It wraps up the entire trial process in an easy to understand and compelling way. Effective closing arguments will highlight the strong points of a case and present a favorable and positive portrait of the client.
After each attorney presents their case and wraps up with their own closing statements, the judge must weigh the evidence presented and deliberate on the outcome. Depending on the nature of the case and what’s at stake, such as child custody or support issues, the judge may issue a ruling immediately or take time to deliberate on the matter and issue a ruling at a later date. It is not uncommon for a judge to take a case under advisement before issuing a ruling. This gives them time to further review the evidence presented and make a thorough and calculated decision. Once a judge makes a final decision on the outcome of a case, the ruling becomes final.
If one or both parties object to the decision, they will need to begin the process of a legal appeal. An appeal is a request to review the case again to see if the trial judge did something wrong. If an appellate court finds that the trial judge made an error, the appeal would be referred to a higher court, and the in-court appeal process could begin. An appeal is highly technical and has nothing to do with the evidence presented. It has to do with the intricacies and technicalities of the legal system itself. An experienced attorney is the best resource for deciding if an appeal is appropriate and to help you navigate the appeals process.
Contact an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney Today
The legal process is extremely detailed and technical. It takes an experienced attorney to navigate the system and build a compelling case that gives you the best chance at a positive outcome for your situation.
If you are contemplating a divorce, talk to an attorney with Marshall & Taylor PLLC for more information on how we can help you during this challenging time. Reach out and speak with us today by calling (919) 833-1040, and let us set you up with a case evaluation.